How NOT to network in 2011

1 01 2011

Since so many people have “I will do more networking this year” on their New Year’s resolutions lists, I had to share this:

Here is an example of something I categorize as “leveraging the useless.” I’m also including my explanation of why this type of communication is useless to the sender as well as the receiver. The names have been changed to protect the innocent clueless.Clueless Networking

This message came from someone I’ve never met, referencing someone I barely know, and requesting an intro to someone fairly close to me, as well as someone I protect from inquiries just like this (as she does for me).  This message came into my LinkedIn messages Inbox.

On 11/28/10 3:49 PM, David Paul wrote:
——————–
Sandy,

I just had coffee with Wayne Lunky today as a followup from a seminar he did at his church on job search tips.

He highly recommended your book – ‘I’m at a Networking Event – Now What???’ to me.

I was wondering if you could introduce me to Mary Lorenzo at Expedia so I could learn more about the ‘Business Development’ opportunities they have.

Thank you for your help,

David Paul

——————–

That’s it?! Oh, sure. Let’s imagine what he thinks I should do on his behalf:

Call or email my contact and say, “Hey Mary, I don’t know this person, I barely know the person he referenced, but he apparently wants me to ask you to make time to talk to him about whatever opportunities might exist at your company in an area you have nothing to do with. Is it OK if I give him all your contact info? Oh, and since he’s acquainted with the guy I barely know via something at his church, he must be OK and totally worthy of your referring him into your company for a job and associating yourself with him.”

REALLY?! What I want to know is who is advising people to “network” this way? (He certainly did NOT read MY book!) There are so many things wrong with this I’ll get a headache if I have to go through them, so I’ll just go with the most basic:

The definition of the word “network” according to The Oxford Dictionary is:

nétwerk n. & v. a group of people who exchange information, contacts, and experience for professional or social purposes.

We can then define networking as one’s efforts to create a group, and the key word in the above definition is EXCHANGE.

So, if you’re doing the “ask,” and there’s not even an attempt to at least offer an exchange of some type of future assistance, it’s definitely best to find another way to get to a very distant connection’s contact.

Please feel free to share this post wherever you think it might be seen by people who need this basic business savvy info. Thank you!

Additional note: Even The Onion has something to say about what they refer to as “nonconcensual networking.” CLICK HERE for a chuckle.
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Thank You Notes 101

14 12 2010

“Thank You Notes 101” is the title I decided to give this blog post because it’s better for SEO, but I really wanted to name it “Why Bother With Thank You Notes” or “Thank You Notes and then some…”

I know a lot of folks think that thank you notes are more in the realm of etiquette, but I believe they are not only a sign that someone has good manners, they also indicate what I refer to as “basic business savvy.” Not much else creates the same impression or positive social capital as a well-written, genuine and timely thank you note. (Earlier this year, I even wrote about a “Best Thank You Note Contest” I came across.)

I’ve always found that the end of the year is a great time to turn the “To Do” of holiday card writing into an enjoyable gratitude exercise and use it to write personal thank you notes to:

  • Clients
  • Business/referral partners
  • Vendors
  • Managers
  • Employees
  • Neighbors
  • Others

Write a thank you note in your holiday card
Try to make sure your notes include sentiments like the ones I’ve used or have received over the years:

“I am proud that you think so highly of Bella Domain that you recommended our services to one of your clients. Many thanks for your thoughtfulness.”

“I hardly know how to express my gratitude for your assistance; without it, the deal would never have closed.”

“Your kindness and responsiveness during a very stressful time were deeply appreciated.”

“Words cannot express the heartfelt thanks of my team. Your assistance was invaluable.”

“I was so glad you were able to attend. Your insightful questions helped put the client’s challenges in a whole new light.”

“I appreciated the opportunity to learn the ropes from a real rock star like you.”

“My time is your time – anytime.”

“You were very kind to take time to meet with me about developers. I hope to have the opportunity to return the favor when you’re ready to talk about your launch.”

“The gift of time is priceless. Thanks for the countless hours you devoted to the WITI proposal.”

“We think you have just redefined ‘above and beyond.’ The presentation deck was more than anyone could have imagined.”

“I know you had to put aside some important projects to complete the proposal deck. I just wanted to tell you how much it meant to us. Please use this gift card to take your team out on our behalf.”

“Your efforts added a new dimension to the scope of our upcoming social media project. Thanks for being there when it mattered.”

“I just wanted to let you know that I never take clients for granted. I will do everything possible to continue to deserve your business.”

“Many things have changed since we started doing business together. One thing has not: I value our relationship and will do all I can to strengthen it in the coming year.”

In lieu of a gift

Now, granted, some of the vendors or employees you’re thanking might prefer, and even warrant, a gift card along with the note (see below). However, when you can’t afford gifts, or it’s not appropriate because of a corporate policy, a well-written thank you note creates a lasting impression and is often posted up on a bulletin board and glanced at all year long.  I recently read that President Clinton advised Oprah to write thank you notes in letterform and kept to a single page so they’d be easier for the recipient to frame and hang on a wall. Not exactly what I’m talking about here, but it proves my point. People hang onto thank you notes and the gratitude or recognition within them.

When I managed a large team of what I like to affectionately refer to as “junior mints” (either directly or indirectly), as the VP of Research Operations at a past employer in Chicago, each year-end I would take time throughout the month of December to personalize a holiday card for each member of my staff. I couldn’t afford to buy them each a gift, but I could take the time to write a note thanking them for specific things they’d done during the year or to recognize their unique talents and contributions to the company.  I knew the notes were received as I’d hoped when I would still see them hanging on the cube or office walls of the recipients long after the holidays had past and into the next year.Thank you notes on a cubicle wall

So why not take some time this year to write thank you notes/holiday cards and put some thought into how specific people have helped you in your business, career or life in 2010 and tell them how grateful you are that they’re in your network? You’ll be surprised at how good you’ll feel when you write them and how much good karma you’ll experience once you pass them onto the deserving recipients.

When a gift is appropriate

One word of caution though, if you have biz or referral partners that have sent revenue generating business, or other types of significant opportunities your way, think very carefully about what else you could do to show your gratitude this year. If you haven’t reciprocated or offered them some form of trade, well, that’s just bad business savvy. And, if you’re not sure how you can reciprocate or what they might value in trade, simply ASK THEM.

BTW, as a biz owner you’re allowed gift allowances as a business expense (here’s a WomenEntrepreneur.com article covering this), so if you don’t have a formal referral program in place (which I recommend), or don’t extend some form of a gesture of thanks other than an email, you just might see fewer opportunities or leads sent your way next year.  I’m just saying…..
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